United tunes of India

To mark the country’s 75th Independence Day, 16 artistes created a song to represent the essence of being Indian—united despite cultural diversity
Sohini Roychowdhury; Ravi Iyer; Sunita Bhuyan; Naviin Gandharv
Sohini Roychowdhury; Ravi Iyer; Sunita Bhuyan; Naviin Gandharv

A chance conversation in July, between entrepreneur Nanni Singh and composer Ravi Iyer, led to a musical collaboration, the likes of which perhaps haven’t been witnessed since the days of ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’. The pandemic had put a dent on live performances and some artistes struggled to make ends meet but never let go of their craft. Singh wanted to create a song that would represent their fighting spirit and Iyer wanted to be the one to do it. He took a day to experiment with some melodies, while Singh identified the artistes, and barely a month later, on August 15,  ‘Synthesis—The Indian Muse’ was released. 

“I cannot think of any recent production where 16 exemplary Indian artistes have come together for a musical presentation—and that too remotely! Kudos to each one for their tremendous effort and blending their unique strengths together for a beautiful final result,” says Singh, CEO of Showcase Events. With his expertise in fusion music, Iyer proves a good ringmaster, while composer KC Loy’s lyrics analogise India’s well-meshed diversity of cultural traditions. Veteran music producer Aslam Khan’s mixing and mastering is the proverbial cherry on top of this remote production.

“Synthesis for me is an anthem of love, peace, harmony and togetherness. I am very proud to be Indian and extremely proud to be a part of this project which brings to you our unity in diversity in one voice together,” says Iyer. The digitally-compiled video opens with a picturesque shot of the Dal Lake in Kashmir where Nazir Ganaie is playing the musical instrument rabab. Then the video captures the mood of various artistes at their home, including young violinist Ambi Subramaniam in Bengaluru, Bharatanatyam dancer Sohini Roychowdhury in Kolkata and Ustad Hidayat Hussain Khan on the sitar from his home in the US. Khan says, “I’m honoured, proud and so fortunate to be a part of this project and to work with these amazingly talented musicians, composers and singers. It’s also special because I’m able to reach all of you from US.”

Apart from geographical diversity, the variety offered in musical and visual form is akin to attending an entire concert in the span of four minutes. Vocal styles range from Thumri with Dhanashree Pandit Rai, Sufi with Sonam Kalra, Hindustani classical with Anushree Gupta, and folk with Kutle Khan and Sunita Bhuyan. The repertoire also includes instrumentalists such as Pt. Ajay Prasanna on the flute, Naviin Gandharv on the belabahaar, Sunita Bhuyan on the violin, Nathulal Solanki on the nagaras, Ustaad Fazal Qureshi on the tabla, Sridar Parthasarathy on the mridangam, Vijay Chavan on the Marathi dholki and Kutle Khan on the khartaal. There’s Aditi Bhagwat too who performs Kathak. 

Shot on phones—some in studios and others at home—and compiled digitally in a month, the shoot had its fair share of challenges. Dhanashree Pandit-Rai says, “The most exciting part for all of us was to see the song germinate bit by bit. First, we got the catchy melodic line, then the lyrics came in and seamlessly blended with the music, then came the instrumental bits, and finally vocal parts from different artistes. Each time the song would come back with something added in and watching it grow was exciting.”

Kutle Khan
Kutle Khan

Whatever the challenges may have been, to the outside world, the song is an apt representation of India’s unique cultural traditions. Perhaps the reason why it appealed to a number of consulates and embassies, including the USA, Turkey and Spain, who chose to premier it within their communities as a mark of respect on India’s Independence Day. Additionally, it was played in a few international cultural institutions such as the Nehru Centre, London, Arab Cultural Center in the UAE and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, to mark the momentous occasion. 

Currently streaming across all music platforms and on the ShowCase Events YouTube channel, ‘Synthesis—The Indian Muse’ seems to have achieved the goal it set out to. It spreads the message of unity through its representation of diverse regional traditions in a globally appealing format.

The Artists Vocalists
• Dhanashree Pandit Rai - Thumri
• Sonam Kalra - Sufi
• Anushree Gupta - Hindustani classical
• Kutle Khan - Rajasthani Folk
• Sunita Bhuyan - Folk

• Ambi Subramaniam - Violin
• Nazir Ganaie - Rabab 
• Hidayat Husain Khan - Sitar 
• Pt. Ajay Prasanna - Flute
• Naviin Gandharv - Belabahaar
• Sunita Bhuyan - Violin 
• Nathulal Solanki - Nagara 
• Ustaad Fazal Qureshi - Tabla 
• Sridar Parthasarathy - Mridangam 
• Vijay Chavan - Marathi Dholki
• Kutle Khan - Khartaal

• Aditi Bhagwat - Kathak 
• Sohini Roychowdhury - Bharatnatyam 
Music Composition
Ravi Iyer 

K C Loy 

Aslam Khan, Headroom Studios 

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